ARC Review – Broken Valley

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Broken Valley by Owen Lach, the sequel to last year’s Founder’s Mercy. I enjoyed the first book and have been anticipating the continuation of the story. The wait is finally over, and the book will be released tomorrow, January 24, 2023.

Adan Testa is on the run. Somehow he can use the centuries-old tech left behind by Neska’s original colonists. And that makes him the target of powerful forces willing to do whatever it takes to learn Adan’s secret for themselves. With relentless Union operatives hot on his heels, Adan and his friends begin a perilous journey along the 500-year-old trail to find the only thing that can give Adan the answers he seeks.

Don’t miss this thrilling new addition to the smash hit Queer YA Sci-Fi series The Neskan Chronicles from best-selling author Owen Lach!

***Thank you to Jetspace Studio for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I’ve been looking forward to this sequel because I enjoyed the setting and characters of the first book. This story improved on the many strengths of the first outing while also avoiding the few things I didn’t enjoy. Lach’s writing has matured with each book he’s released, and I think this was his best work yet. It was easy to read, descriptive without being overly wordy, and steady in pace.

The story started out with Adan and his friends on the run from sinister agents seeking to use him as a lab rat to learn about his special abilities. All of the travel took the characters to jaw-dropping new locales, and I loved getting to see so much more of this world. Each place was unique, and it was interesting to compare each of them to the drastic conditions of Bolvar from the first book.

The plot was fairly straightforward with the characters on the run the whole time, but there was plenty of action to keep things engaging. The vibes were tense through to the end as the characters were always waiting for the other shoe to drop. There were several reveals that I didn’t expect, and I now have several new questions making me want the next book ASAP. The logs from the first explorers of this world also continued to be a wonderful supplement to the main story with a new entry between each chapter.

Where Lach really shines, though, is his ability to create lovable and compelling characters. Adan, in particular, experienced a lot of growth as he struggled with coming to terms with all the events of the previous book and the consequences of his actions. Specifically, he had to learn to manage his anxiety and PTSD in addition to dealing with his grief and guilt over being forced into violence he didn’t want to commit. His new relationship was also a highlight. Lach has a penchant for writing sickeningly sweet characters and relationship dynamics that leave me feeling like I just left a therapy session (in a good way). lol. I loved how Adan and his love interest exhibited healthy communication despite everything going on for them, and their relationship illustrated how good communication can keep minor drama from snowballing into bigger problems. I did miss the amazing platonic love between Adan and Bo in this one, though. The focus on the romantic relationships shifted the spotlight from their friendship, and I was let down by that change because it was such a huge piece of the heart of the first novel. The group dynamic of the found family was well-written and realistic with the occasional squabble due to the stress of their circumstances and a huge amount of love apparent even in the rough times. I appreciated getting to spend more quieter moments with all of them during the traveling.

All in all, this was a wonderful second installment in a delightfully queer and inclusive sci-fi coming-of-age story. The plot and character dynamics were compelling and contained fascinating technology, immersive world-building, and plenty of tense action. It was a quick, easy read, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes next. Therefore, I rate this book 4.25 out of 5 stars.

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